Rebbetzin Heller, what is my mission? why am I here?

17 12 2012

Based on Rebbetzin Heller’s Question and Answer Series on






I am childless, happily married, about to turn 50, and quite honestly, am feeling very ‘lost’ since I got laid off from my job almost a year ago. I can see the story of Lech Lecha and feel Hashem has said to me, pick up and go… But where?  What is my mission? Why am I here? If a woman’s primary function is to be a mother, what is the purpose of a woman who will never be one?




Lech Lecha” means go to yourself. Hashem sometimes presents us with situations that force us to figure ourselves out and move beyond who we were before. A person can do this on several levels. “Artzecha,” your land, the part of you that’s earth-like: lazy, depressed, or tied down to external order. Hashem has forced you into this by taking your job away. You can no longer submerge yourself in routine material efforts.


Moladetcha,” your inborn traits. Hashem made you infertile and thereby moved you beyond the biological destiny of most women. “Mibeit avicha,” your father’s home. A father provides a child’s form – the ideas and principles that shape his life. You need to step beyond this and discover new vistas. In order to find yourself you have to know your abilities and what is accessible and needed in your particular area. Think about what you’re good at and what you like to do. That may be where your destiny is.


You may argue that you need a job that pays, and that doing what you like isn’t going to be all that lucrative. You still need to make room for it. It may mean combining it with a regular job, but begin to walk in that direction. In addition, work on developing birur. The idea of birur means finding the element of divinity in a situation and letting that become primary, even when it isn’t primary in terms of substance or time. For example, if you are a real estate broker, you can focus on concerning yourself with people’s needs and taking pleasure in helping them. Obviously this is not a broker’s key motive, but if you succeed in making birur  a part of your life, you can transform ordinary work into something eternal.


How Can I Make My Life More Meaningful?

10 12 2012

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on



 Although children did not come easily to me, thank G-d I now have three school age children. Sometimes I can’t help feeling like I’m neither here nor there – not really immersed in child-rearing to the exclusion of everything else, but not entirely free to go back to school to pursue my interests. I can only imagine how betrayed women who planned careers or employment as prospective mothers and were not yet fortunate enough to get married and/or have kids must feel!



It seems like you only see two possibilities of fulfillment. One is full time employment in a demanding career, and the other is full time mothering. However, there are many other possibilities and ways to spend time that are fulfilling and interesting. When a person’s basic physical needs are met, people usually pursue aesthetic pleasure. After that, people search for relationships.  Think about the individuals you like the most, ask yourself why you like them. The answers are always spiritual. You can’t weigh loyalty or measure kindness. Feeling loyal, kind, and positive when you are with the person makes you like them even more. This is called spiritual bonding, and it is a very deep pleasure.


You need opportunities for spiritual bonding. It can take place within your family, through tefila, through chesed, or by taking a course which can equip you to help others.  If Hashem gave you the ability to do more, than by all means do more. Some single or childless women may feel betrayed, but the proper response is, “This is where I am supposed to be and I am going to find the good in it.”


The Sefat Emet explains that when Hashem told Avraham, “Lech lecha,” he did not tell him where to go because he wanted to bring Avraham to the maximum level of bitul haratzon, negation of his own will. Hashem gave him the opportunity to say, “I will go where you will lead me, wherever that may be.”


Everyone is told, “Lech lecha,” to go to Eretz Yisrael, in a theoretical sense, the place of bitul haratzon. Ask yourself, “How can I do Hashem’s will without questions?”  By giving you time and space, Hashem is saying, “Go where I am leading you.”  Don’t waste this time. Fill it with meaning and depth by nurturing your relationship with Hashem and giving to others in a way that will expand your inner self.

Chanukah, Vayeishev and Mikeitz

9 12 2012

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Beinush Ginsburg


Why does Chanukah always fall out during the parshiot of Vayeishev or Mikeitz?  The midrash in Mikeitz tells us that Hashem had a master plan. He wanted Yosef to be imprisoned for two years.  Therefore, he caused Pharoh to have a dream, so Yosef would be freed in a natural way. This is contrary to what we would think – that Pharoh had a dream, therefore Yosef was released. Hashem governs hashgacha through natural events, but in reality everything is part of a miraculous master plan. This is a central theme of Chanukah.


On this holiday, the prayer of Modim takes on extra meaning as we thank Hashem for all the hidden miracles we experience daily. The Greeks worshipped science, we worship the omniscient Creator behind it all.  This is what the Alter of Kelm meant when he explained why Chanukah is eight days and not seven. True we had seven revealed miraculous days, but the fact that oil burns at all, is a hidden miracle too that calls for celebration. 


Rav Mirsky suggests another connection.  In Al Hanissim we say, “The mighty were given into the hands of the weak, and the many into the hands of the few.”  Similarly, in Yosef’s dream, the majority deferred to the minority.  In Pharoh’s dream too, the seven thin cows swallowed up the heavy ones.  Just as the small band of Maccabees fought bravely against the Greeks, Yosef stood up alone against the idol worshipping people of Egypt to proclaim Hashem’s sovereignty. 


Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz relates a third explanation.  The midrash Yalkut Shemoni explains that although the Arab caravans would normally transport foul-smelling skins, Hashem made them carry sweet-smelling spices with Yosef so he would not need to endure extra discomfort. Rav Shmuelevitz depicts this as a kiss from Hashem to Yosef.  Yosef understood through this sign that Hashem had not completely abandoned him. On Chanukah too, Hashem gifted us with the miracle of the jug of oil to show His love for us. Pure oil was not necessary because the Jews were ritually impure, but Hashem wanted to give them the joy of performing the mitzva in the best possible way. 


Rav Nebenzhal explores a fourth connection.  The Gemara in Shabbat discusses Chanukah and the law that a menorah that is taller than twenty amot is invalid for the mitzvah of Chanuka menorah. This is because one cannot publicize the miracle this way. The gemara continues with an analysis of the pit into which Yosef was thrown. “V’habor reik ein bo mayim.” The well was empty of water – but it contained snakes and scorpions. Yosef spoke lashon hara about his brothers. Therefore, he was punished and thrown into a well with snakes. Yet Hashem saved him in the merit that Yosef would later publicize Hashem’s name in Egypt.


As we gaze at the small twinkling Chanukah flames, let us contemplate the secret of our nation’s immortality, our commitment to Judaism, our strength to stick to the truth despite being the minority, Hashem’s extra special love for us, and the miracle of our very existence.